WINSTED >> Nonnewaug’s boys soccer team controlled the middle of the field for a 3-0 win at Northwestern Tuesday afternoon.
“We try to be first to every ball or at least get it on the second effort,” said junior midfielder Dan Swanson.
Swanson and his teammates did that on almost every 50-50 ball. Early in the second half, a frustrated Northwestern goalkicker pleaded, “Win the ball, white,” to his teammates without a response.
Still, it took the Berkshire League pre-season favorite Chiefs 31 minutes to put their first score on the board, despite a majority of starts from the midfield stripe.
Captains Nate Firlings and Leland Malloy connected for the only goal in the first half. Defender Jacob Matta, another Chiefs captain, came up for both second-half goals.
“My central defenders, Alec Harwood and Jameson Weber, have been rocks back there for us,” said Northwestern Coach Andy Campbell.
That was part of it. Nonnewaug Coach Toby Denman blamed his own people for their lack of production as well.
“I thought we weren’t too good in the first half,” he said. “We have talented individuals, but we have people standing around watching. Our work off the ball has to get better.”
“We have to communicate better between ourselves and our midfielders,” said striker Firlings. “It’s our last couple of passes that need work.”
The Chiefs’ first goal was a demonstration of those principals in action. Swanson won the ball at midfield, passed to Firlings, who spotted Malloy 10 yards off the right post for the score.
Eleven minutes into the second half, the Chiefs’ pressure produced a corner kick. Sophomore Andrew Ray drilled his kick to the box. Swanson, with a height advantage over most of the pack, headed it in.
With 10 minutes left, Swanson was there again for the clincher, rifling a shot home from 15 yards on a pass from junior Alex Gonzales.
“I’m there for corner kicks. Whenever I see space, I step to the ball,” Swanson said.
“They controlled the play,” said Coach Campbell.
Nevertheless, starting the season against the top two teams in the league (Lewis Mills beat the Highlanders 5-2 Friday) and another top team — Wamogo — coming in Friday, Campbell felt the improvement.
“Last year, with the nine starters we graduated, we tied this team 3-3 while they’re bringing almost everyone back,” he said. “They’re every bit as good as Mills, but we played a much better game today than we did Friday. Down there, we were deer in the headlights. We just weren’t ready for the speed, the lights (in a night game) and the fans.”
Nonnewaug 3, Northwestern 0
At Northwestern High School
Nonnewaug 1 2 – 3
Northwestern 0 0 – 0
Goals: N – Leland Malloy; Jacob Matta 2. Assists: N – Nat Firlings; Andrew Ray; Alex Gonzales. Shots: 11-2 Nonnewaug. Saves: N – Ryan Rescsanski 2. NW – Michael Neumann 8.
Records: Nonnewaug 2-0; Northwestern 0-2.